Remember when you were in school and a substitute teacher would come into the room to teach? In just a few moments, you would decide whether they were someone who would be strict – or if they were a person who could be walked over.
Your employees are doing the same thing with you.
Even though they logically know you're the person who will be guiding what they are doing for the term of their employment, the more effectively you can set the tone of your leadership, the more willing those staff members will be to listen to you.
You have to make sure you're setting the right example, right from the start.
When You're New
There are some advantages to being a manager who is hired into a company. Not only are you a person who is seen as being an authority immediately, but in addition, these people don't know who you are.
The employees won't already have a sense of what you have to bring to the company, and they aren't able to make decisions about the kind of leader you will be.
They have to just listen to what you have to say, and they have to take what you're saying about yourself as being the truth (even if it's not).
But when you're new, you also get one chance to set the tone for your management. You need to make the right impression right away, or else you're going to have trouble backtracking on what you've said.
When you're new to a company, the best way to approach the conversation with employees is to plan and script out what you will say to everyone at an all-company meeting.
(It is also a good idea to send out this introduction in an email to make sure everyone "hears" what you have to say.)
In this introduction, it's best to talk about the following:
- Who you are – Even if your company has already begun to introduce you to the employees, it's good to talk about who you are, as well. You don't have to go into your life story, but it can help to make yourself appear human (i.e. your family, your interests, etc.).
- What your experience is – Focus next on where you've come from, especially if it's an impressive background. This will help instill faith in your skills and your decision-making ability. If your background doesn't seem to fit with the company's direction, then talk about what your skill set is, and what it means to the new position.
- Why you were hired – You can also clearly state why you have been hired, and what you bring to the company.
- What you plan to do – End your introduction to the company with a clear plan for the future. Be honest in this part, as you need to try to create trust in your actions. You need to be as detailed as you can be, so employees will also know whether they are the right fit for your management style, or if they should start looking for other work.
As a new manager, it will also be helpful to sit down with all of the management staff, and talk to them before addressing the entire staff. Talk with them about your direction, and find out as much as you can about the staff members.
This will allow you to focus on the way you will all work together, instead of simply how you will be the one who is in charge.
The more collaborative you can make your introductions, the better for everyone who is involved – especially when you're new. If you're not focusing or identifying the fact that there is a company already in place (with real people), you may alienate everyone before you even begin.
When You're Not New
Now, if you're not a new person in the company, things can be tricky, so setting the right tone needs to happen as soon as possible.
If you're already a part of the company, you might have trouble with:
- Those who wanted your job
- Those who have seen you outside of work
- Those who want to test you because they don't like you
Even if you already know who the trouble people might be, you need to act as though these people don't exist. Focus instead on how you can lead the way.
You can do this by creating a similar address to what a new manager might want to bring to an all-company meeting (or email, but preferably a live announcement).
- Who you are – For those who don't know, you can talk about how you have moved up in the company and why you are ready for a leadership role.
- What your plans are – Be clear about what you are trying to do, what your goals are, and how you are eager to work together to reach these goals.
You can keep things a little simpler when you've already been an employee at a company, but you still want to project the leader image that you would with a new company.
Remember, you mean business and you need to be the one who others will turn to when they are trying to do their job.
If you encounter resistance to your management announcement, then it's ideal for you to talk to each of these people one-on-one. Not only does this allow you to address concerns privately, but it will also show that you are ready to answer questions and criticisms.
Of course, this doesn't mean you need to address the concerns. Just make sure you listen and understand. That will show you are a leader, and not just a person who may be nervous about their new role (even if you are).
The Tone(s) of Management
You've had many managers in the past, no doubt, and they all had different styles of management. While no one style is the best, there are things that you can learn from knowing how others have led.
- The friend – Some managers turn to the friend tone of management, and this often happens when a manager has not led before, or they are uncomfortable in the role. In this style, they might not try to upset anyone who is on their team, or they might take on a more personal tone.
- The boss – Other managers might focus more on being the one who hands down tasks and edicts about how work should be done. They might move around, trying to tell others what to do, regardless of how others may feel about the decisions.
- The hands-off manager – Or there are managers who might choose to let their teams do as they choose, even if the manager doesn't agree with the way that the work is being done.
- The team player – Another management tone or style is to be the team player -- someone who works alongside the team, instead of telling the team what to do, and how to do it.
- The micro manager – Still other managers might attempt to control every step in the way that things are done and the way that things continue to be done. They might point out errors or missteps frequently, and they may continue to focus on the things that aren't right, or that aren't in accordance to the way they might do things.
As you can see, there are a number of managers and management styles out there, and each one has its upsides and its downsides.
One might be say that the best manager is the one that gets things done, but who also is able to inspire people to do their very best through careful guidance, respect, and support.
But only you can decide what sort of manager you might be, and what tone you might set. Often, this choice will not only depend on the personality you already have, but it can also depend on the employees you have to lead.
Directing Others Effectively
As a manager, your job is to make sure that others do things that benefit the company and its plans. To do this, you need to direct others in their jobs. You might be responsible for managers and supervisors, or you might be responsible for employees (or all of the above).
To ensure you are doing your job, you need to learn how to get others to do their jobs.
But how can you direct others if you haven't done it before?
Learning to Direct
One of the best and easiest ways to start learning how to direct others is to think about the bosses you have had in the past. Think about who allowed you to be the best employee you could be, and how you think they could have improved.
Consider, too, how your employees have been led in the past, or how they need to be led into the changes you expect to make during your leadership.
You may also want to look into getting a mentor by talking to someone else on the management team who has been successful. This way, you can sit down and talk with them about what works, what doesn't, and what they might recommend.
It can also be helpful to sit down with the entire management team on a regular basis to see how you can lead together. You might be able to sit down and talk about:
- Problems – Together, you can talk about the problems you are having with certain projects or certain employees. By sharing these issues with others, you will be able to talk about how you might handle these situations, and what you might need to do to resolve the problems for good.
- Goals – It can also help for you to talk about the goals you have in your teams, or in the company as a whole. When you do, you can find out what is important to everyone and whether you might be able to get help from another department that you may not have anticipated. Or, you can work on the goals you want to create, finding feedback and refining those goals as you talk.
- Strategies – Groups of managers can also work together to talk about how they might create strategies for success. Or they can share the strategies and the results they generated.
Learning to direct doesn't happen in just a few days or with a title change. You need to continue to cultivate your leadership abilities by talking with others who are in the same position as you are.
Where are You Going?
Even the conversations with other managers aren't going to help you if you don't know what you're trying to direct people to do. If this is your job to determine the direction of the company, or even your department, you need to start figuring out what the goals are.
To determine the direction, you need to think about:
- Mergers and acquisitions
It can help to set very clear goals when you're taking over a new manager role. This might include very defined sales goals and figures, which will allow you to plot out a course of action.
But if you're not clear about where you are going in your company, you're not going to know how to direct others.
Know, too, that you can always change the direction you think you're going, and you will. But the more defined your ending point, the easier it will be for you to lead.
Just because you know how you will direct others doesn't mean it's going to be simple enough to have everyone listen to you. Instead, you need to consider how you might inspire action from your team.
Now, you could do many hundreds of different things to inspire action, as people are motivated in different ways to listen to what someone else is telling them to do.
But here are some of the things you might start with, and then you can determine whether there are other possibilities you might employ.
- Have a clear plan – People do not want to take action unless they know what they're doing, and what you want them to do. If you have a vague idea of what needs to happen, then people will react in similarly vague ways. Even if you're not completely sure how things need to happen, be clear about the end point and the overall motivation for the activity.
- Create competition – Often, teams and companies will respond better to direction when they are in competition with others. This doesn't mean you need to make teams compete with each other, but you might want to let teams with similar goals know how they are faring in relation to another team. Everyone wants to win, after all. Or you might want to talk about how the competing company is doing and then have your internal teams try to beat the outside competition.
- Document results – The more you can quantify the results of the company's activities, the more easily the teams will be able to see how they are doing. They will then direct themselves to action, sometimes without needing anything more from you.
- Show what you're doing – You will also want to be accountable for what you are doing in your own office. Be clear about how you are being a part of the activity, as that will ensure your team continues to stay in movement.
Direction isn't just about telling others what to do and then watching them do it. (If only it were that easy all the time, managers lament.)
What you can do is try to inspire them to take action, right from the start of your leadership. In doing so, the teams will inspire themselves and see you as being a motivator, instead of being someone who just shouts orders at them.
Learning What Works
Leading others is somewhat of a process of trial and error, to be sure. What works for some teams is not what works for all teams and all situations.
Instead, you need to consider how the teams interact already when you arrive in the company. Look at what works in their team already by asking questions and seeing what individual employees think about their workplace.
If they aren't happy with their work, or they think things could be better, listen to those comments, too.
Find out what it takes to lead the specific people you need to lead, and then see how you can follow their advice. Though you may not be able to follow all of their advice all of the time, or you might need to make adjustments, you can certainly learn how to lead (and inspire action) by those who are being led.
In the end, directing others effectively is something that will emerge over time. After all, you may not get it right at first, and you may make mistakes.
While you might feel a lot more pressure as a manager, realize this is normal and it's certainly something that will pass. Just try to do what you think is right, and you will most often be right, even if things don't happen exactly the way you think they should have.